Church funds planning expert

Many people think of the Catholic Church as a body that dispenses strictly spiritual advice. The Archdiocese of Hartford, however, recently funded a regional planning expert to help quell Connecticut’s economic development strife.

Myron Orfield, a Minnesota state senator and executive director of the Metropolitan Area Research Corporation, made a recommendation to the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Tuesday morning regarding future development patterns and other forces changing Connecticut.

“The state should be working toward more comprehensive cooperation between municipalities,” Orfield said. He also recommended that Connecticut municipalities find ways to rely less exclusively on local funds, and work towards making existing transportation modes more efficient.

Orfield has conducted studies of metropolitan regions throughout the United States and has published several books including “American Metropolitics.” His report “Connecticut Metropolitics” is scheduled for release in December 2002.

The Office of Urban Affairs of the Archdiocese of Hartford hired Orfield to conduct the study as part of its CenterEdge Project, an effort to assemble a broad coalition to educate Connecticut residents about disparities created by long-term development patterns in each of the state’s metropolitan areas.

“Connecticut is a unique example of a metropolitan region,” Orfield said. “Much of the state is commonly associated with the New York City metro area, but in fact the state is facing issues all its own.”

In a statement on its Web site, the Archdiocese of Hartford mentioned such issues as health, the environment and poverty, among others.

“[The study] has to do with their health, their money, their quality of life, and their access to opportunity,” the Web statement said.

CCM, a member of the coalition formed out of the CenterEdge Project, is an association of Connecticut cities and towns. It has 147 member municipalities that include more than 93 percent of the state’s population.

After hearing Orfield’s recommendations, the coalition will decide on the best educational strategies to use to inform the Connecticut public, and to raise the money to implement those strategies.

According to the Archdiocese, OUA will do what is necessary to support the coalition’s work. Examples of possible activities include conferences, a Web site, study circles, storytelling events, and a television program.

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